In the midst of war, a travel break in Ukraine

Today marks Independence Day in Ukraine, a celebration of Ukraine’s independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. But the celebration takes on a whole new meaning this year as Ukraine also marks six months of war with Russia. And yet, even at the height of the war, Ukrainians find peace and rest through travel.

A travel break in Ukraine in the midst of war

Many have a misconception that war means total war, as if there is fighting in every street and on every corner. This has never been the case in Ukraine or just about any conflict in the last hundred years. Indeed, life goes on as normal in much of Ukraine, even with the existential threat of a massive invading force sometimes miles away.

As Ukrainians reflect on Independence Day and the doldrums of war, some soldiers are taking a well-deserved break…and they don’t even have to go far. Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times recently wrote a touching story on how the Tylihul estuary has become a popular getaway for weary Ukrainian families.

The Tylihul estuary is less than 80km from the front lines, but it’s a whole other world, a world with the quiet sounds of waves, fine sand and oysters. It is one of the few areas along the Black Sea coast that is undeveloped and has become a popular getaway area.

Oysters are a particular draw. At the start of the war, Ukrainian soldiers repelled Russian advances that threatened to take over this area, including André Pigulevsky’s oyster farm. In gratitude, Pigulevsky allows all soldiers and their families to enjoy unlimited oysters for free. He told Schwirtz:

“The purpose of this place is to have a few hours of rest to feel like in peacetime.”

It’s an incredible story of human resilience. Trees are still pruned, windows are still washed, and cafes are still serving espressos all over Ukraine, even in areas under constant threat from Russian bombardment. However, the battle is coming. Soldiers who could enjoy a few hours at the beach must return to their regiments and face extreme risks that many of us cannot even imagine.


Even in times of war, humans still need to travel…we need vacations…we need rest. On this day of Ukraine’s independence, I pray that the stalemate will turn into victory and that Putin will be further humiliated and ultimately defeated for his undeserved and reckless invasion of a sovereign nation.

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